Im-Able Technology for Recovery After Stroke

A games system designed to help stroke rehabilitation is getting inquiries from abroad even before the Lower Hutt firm behind it begins promoting its devices.

The Able-X is a handheld games system, designed and marketed by Im-Able and crown research institute Industrial Research Limited (IRL), which aims to help restore movement through exercise and brain stimulation. Using an air mouse, the devices connect wirelessly to computers, with users playing simple games targeting particular movements.

Launched three years ago, the devices, which retail at about $1000 each, are selling one a day despite no marketing and little sales effort.

While clinical research has been carried out on stroke rehabilitees, the firm has heard of its products being used by people who suffer brain injuries or other neurological conditions that affect movement.

Im-Able directors Sunil Vather and Geoff Todd, both former managers of IRL, helped kick off the project to use computer games to assist rehabilitation back in 2002. Both later left to pursue careers in the private sector, but after meeting Marcus King, who was heading the project for IRL, they decided "it was just too good to be left on the shelf", Mr Vather said.

The pair, along with five friends and business contacts, raised money to start the company and launch the product, with IRL receiving royalties on sales.

Three hundred devices were made initially and went on sale in mid-September. Im-Able has not begun marketing or demonstrating the Able-X at trade shows, but inquiries quickly began rolling in.

Inquiries about sales have come from Australia, North America and Scotland, with Mr Todd expecting to deliver the Able-X to customers while on a trade show trip to Germany and Britain.

While Mr Todd said "things are picking up a bit quicker than we expected and we're not really prepared" he believed the Able-X was "a product that will largely sell itself once people know about it".

Im-Able believes there is a gap in the market because of the lack of rehabilitation once people have sufficiently recovered from strokes to move either home or into care, with private physiotherapy expensive in relation to the slow speed of recovery, and simple exercises become "tedous".

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